I seem to be in a little bit of a whirlpool of writing memories at the moment, and this story started very much as one of those. I did accidentally go swimming in a thunderstorm with my best friend, my mother, and my sisters. It was calm and still when we left and we had little idea of what was to come. Never before had such a violent storm overtaken our little corner of the Otago Peninsula, and had we known what was coming, we never would have ventured beyond the house! When our hair started to stand on end, we were confused and intrigued but we carried on. Then the heavens opened and the lightning, thunder, rain, and wind, let loose.
Whilst the event itself was worth a story, the effect on the senses is what I remember above all else. The strange quality of the light and the contrast in sound and sensation all amplified the experience, and it’s still clear in my mind now, nearly thirty years later! That’s what I’ve tried to focus on in this story, and to stress the fact that to be waist-deep in water during an electrical storm is about the dumbest place to be! Without intending to, we’d put ourselves in quite serious danger, and lived to see the tale.
Incidentally, just last year we had another massive thunderstorm (though I live at the other end of the farm now and was NOT swimming). It happened between Christmas and New Year, and late in the evening. It rolled on over us with constant flashes, and a bolt struck a tree less than thirty metres from the house. We’re surrounded by mature blue gum and macrocarpa trees atop a hill. There were taller trees the lightning could have hit, but one down an old, overgrown hedgerow wore the strike and looked like it had been clawed from tip to ground by a massive, angry bear. A thick macrocarpa with multiple trunks got struck, as did the tall tree next to it. When the storm had moved off, I went in search of the source of the massive flash that lit the window I happened to be in front of at the time, and found chunks of bark and wood on the ground. The sodden earth released its pungent odour, cut sharply with tree sap. I still struggle to comprehend the violence of that moment! By March, the tree showed clear signs of injury in yellowing foliage. Now, seven months later, it’s clearly dead, the foliage completely browned off, and the tree next door looks unhappy too!
I’ve done a bit of research around lightning, and positive and negative charges. My thought is that the tree must have had a higher charge than those around it, thus attracting the strike. Whatever the science, I can confirm that it’s just unbelievable to experience the power of a lightning strike at close range. The whole house lit white in a triple pulse, and the instant explosion of sound shook everything like an earthquake. My husband and children screamed from the hallway (the light tubes flooding them with light), I screamed, levitated, and ran! At first I thought our neighbour’s house had been hit. It was a massive shock to find ground zero closer to home. I’m not in a hurry to experience another thunderstorm, I’ll tell you that!
In this story, though, you’re perfectly safe. I’ve tried to give a sense of the sensations and bewildered wonder we experienced, so you can be immersed in it too.
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Happy reading everyone!
Now, onto Grandad's Wild Ride, behind the scenes...
It all started with a small red go-cart being restored on the TV show, The Repair Shop. A sweet grandfather had brought in the small, red racing car he'd played in as a child. Beaten up and rough around the edges, it sparked just enough of something for me to write down little red racing car in my notebook. The grandfather wanted his cart restored for his grandchildren to enjoy, and the result was a candy-red racer fit for children to have a ball with!
My story didn't come easy though. My children have had colds, the children I look after have had the colds too, and to top it off, I got the cold, but still, I had a story to write for all of you! I had many false starts, not writing more than a few words. Finally I stepped back and decided to mull it over without the pressure of writing anything down. I thought about the grandfather's cart, and his hopes for his grandchildren. A memory came to me of my Mum's father, Grandad Lance, who passed away a decade ago, and his dare-devil, get-stuck-in attitude with us, his grandchildren. Many years ago now, my father made my sisters and I a go-cart out of a tip-trolley. It was narrow and a bit tricky to steer, but boy could it go! We only found just how fast after Grandad visited and couldn't resist having a turn himself!
I've also written about my father's father in the last couple of months. He passed away two years ago, and with my grandmother passing recently, my grandparents have been on my mind. Grandad Ray's story is Burning the Cow, and it felt as if Grandad Lance wanted a turn too.
The melding of all these fragments of ideas has resulted in Grandad's Wild Ride, a fast-paced flash fiction full of fun! Enjoy!
Hi, I'm Emily,